A/N: So… Yup. This is the final chapter. It's not quite as epic as it was in my head when I planned it, but what do you do. Truth is, in my head, it's so epic, I'll never be happy with it. XD By the way, while we're on the subject: Remember three years ago, when I published the first chapter of this thing? And wrote in my AN that this would probably be the first-ever fanfic I wrote where Adam and Lawrence didn't hook up? Ah… I was so young and naïve. Either way, I'm really thankful for the ones that still read this, and the ones that review (even though there aren't that many of you XD), you are all awesome, and I hope that this fanfic has been everything you've ever dreamed of, and you're going to walk away from it feeling better about life and bounce on little pink clouds.
33: Worlds Connected
Lawrence stays on his chair for a few minutes after Adam's left. He has no idea why, but in his apathy, it feels important to stare at the coffee stains on the obnoxiously red table. More important than going after Adam. Or maybe it's just that he doesn't think.
When he does stand up and walks out the front doors of the hospital, has no idea what he wants to accomplish with that. He doesn't know where Adam would go, he doesn't know if he's even staying in the city or just dropped by because he wanted to see Lawrence, and if he did, it's not like you can blame him, but it would be kind of weird. Lawrence doesn't get how Adam can even stand to look at him.
He walks outside, then he stops. When he looks around, there's nothing but a parking lot he's seen a million times before. He sort of expected it to be enlightened with some kind of magical fairy glow now that he's seen Adam again, but no. It's just the same fucking parking lot, and Adam's not even on it. Not even Adam can make asphalt magical, despite what Lawrence felt like a few minutes earlier, when they were sitting in there. Awkward, nervous, so many broken things between them. But they were there. It was real.
This isn't real. It doesn't notice. In fact, the only thing Lawrence is feeling right now is slight annoyance, a slimy burn in his stomach when his ulcer is acting up from the coffee, and he's tired, because he hasn't slept properly. And that's the way he's felt for a long, long time.
Lawrence looks around the parking lot again. Sighs.
Then he straightens up, shoves his hands into his pockets and starts walking towards his car.
Lawrence gets back home about fifteen minutes later. He should walk that distance, he knows that. His physical condition is far from the best.
He always walks to the hospital when Diana's coming with him to work, to set a good example. But for some reason, she never believed him when he said that he walked to work when she wasn't there, too.
Lawrence walks up the stairs, his steps heavier than usual, even though he barely feels any sadness. It's not until now that he realizes that he has no reason to go home, though, and that thought kind of… Unaccustomed.
He lives for those days he gets with Diana. Coming home to an empty apartment usually isn't that bad; most of the time, he's too tired to think about how he feels. But now, that he has to walk up the stairs feeling like this, it's like he's never seen his stairway before.
When he's just a couple of steps from his floor, Lawrence's foot stops mid-air. His blood goes red-hot when he sees Adam sitting cross-legged, leaned against the door, camera in his lap.
Adam doesn't look up until Lawrence sets his foot down. He probably notices him, but he's looking intently into the camera screen, that passion and care that he saved for his pictures and for when Lawrence was upset. Then he looks up at Lawrence, who suddenly feels cold all over. He wished Adam would give him a look that he could read, he has no idea how to interpret that expression.
You'd be able to read him if you'd talked to him once in the past ten years.
"Hi," Lawrence says.
Adam keeps staring at him. That look again, trying to figure him out. After one last glance at his camera, he stands up, scratching the back of his neck awkwardly. He takes a step closer to Lawrence, but now keeps his eyes on the ground.
"We should go inside," he mutters.
His tone makes it sound like he's talking about something much more serious.
"Oh," Lawrence says, flinching briefly after being stuck staring at Adam standing in front of him, and taking his keys out of his pocket. "Of course, hang on…"
He walks past Adam and unlocks the door, opens up and gestures for Adam to come in. Despite the situation, he can't help but acting the way he always does. Polite, but nothing more.
Adam steps past him, taking his jacket off and tossing it on the couch. He barely glances around the apartment before he turns around to face Lawrence. Lawrence has to force himself to look back. That face was once the bandage when he'd walked around with an open wound for his whole life.
"Don't think you're off the hook just because I got too pissed to look at you," Adam says, actually managing to stay calm with some effort. "I didn't want to go separate ways before clearing everything out, that's why I came here. I'd still like some answers."
Lawrence nods rapidly, while he's overcome with another wave of that feeling that he had to leave Adam to avoid. Adam deserves answers, he does. Lawrence should give them to him. He should give Adam whatever the hell he wants, but how the hell is he going to do that?
"Of course you do, of course you do," he says, not even noticing how shrill his voice sounds. "It was… I…"
"Lawrence," Adam interrupts patiently. "Try to keep breathing for me, okay?"
"Yeah," Lawrence goes on and starts twisting his hands, goddamn it, he's not that nervous, they should stop shaking. "I'm sorry, I… There was… I was I was I was just…"
"Lawrence," Adam says, suddenly he's right in front of him, hesitating for the briefest of seconds before putting his hands on his shoulders. "Calm down. I don't want you to… For fuck's sake, don't look at me like that…"
Lawrence stares back down at him, not sure what exactly he's so upset about. He's fine, he's been fine without Adam for sixteen years, there's no reason to think he should get a relapse into all his anxiety just because they're together again. But either way, he really wants to stop doing whatever it is he's doing that makes Adam worried. He doesn't want Adam to be worried, but it doesn't feel like he's given him a reason to. He's just a little jumpy.
Adam drops one of the hands he kept on Lawrence's shoulders to rub his hairline tiredly. When he looks back up at him, he looks so tired.
"We don't have to talk about it, okay?" he says, tossing his hand out. "There's never been any use talking to you when you're like this."
"Like what?" Lawrence asks. Adam just shakes his head.
"Nothing. I…" Adam picks up his camera, gesturing with it feebly. "I… I took some pictures on the bus over here. Do you want to take a look?"
Lawrence looks from the camera to Adam. Somehow, the whole situation is hard for him to make sense of, and his hands are still shaking. In the middle of all the other things he's feeling right now, these things frantically buzzing and crashing like terrified fireflies, he realizes that while Adam's getting tiny wrinkles around his eyes, he's still a good ten inches shorter than Lawrence. Christ, they really haven't grown up more than that?
"…Yeah," Lawrence says. "That sounds great."
Adam nods affirmatively, though he's still looking at Lawrence like he's worried he's going to fall to pieces if he lets him go.
"Good," he says and turns around, facing the long hall that leads to the living room. "You're going to have to tour me to the living room, though, because this place is a fucking maze. You really couldn't think of a better way to spend your money?"
Lawrence grins insecurely as they start walking down the hall.
"I'm not as creative as you are," while they're walking. "I can get you some five dollar hookers if it makes you feel better."
"Now would be when we beat each other up," he mutters under his breath while they walk into the living room. Lawrence turns to him, looking less terrified now.
Adam swallows, sits down on the couch and thinks about just letting it pass by. Lawrence doesn't seem to respond well to him bringing up those times, but then he thinks fuck it, and looks back up at him.
"When we first met," he says, sounding more secure than he really is. "In the hallway. I said that I couldn't be more bored in a conference room with the… Daddy that probably bought that pretty suit for you, and you said… That I looked so cheap that I must've been a little more bored if… If the hookers on my neighborhood blew me, or something like that."
Lawrence sits down next to him, seemingly completely fine being so close to him that they're literally touching, leg to leg, arm to arm, and smiles, still with a hint of nervousness.
"I really hated your guts back then," he says softly.
Adam smiles back. He's barely present in the moment, though. In his head, he's back in those hallways, the air dusty and dry, feeling like there were spiders under his skin just from being in that building, and seeing that blond, messy-haired boy for the first time. That makes it feel even weirder to look at the man in front of him right now.
"There's no reason you shouldn't have," Adam says, not fully able to turn away. "I was an obnoxious little asshole."
"You weren't that much better yourself, though," Adam grins, before picking up his camera and starts flipping through the pictures. The moment's gone, but they're still there, touching. "Look at this, I took it from the window of the bus. There was this kid outside when we stopped in Vermont…"
"Right, I have to ask you that," Lawrence interrupts. "Why did you come here now? And… From where?"
Adam freezes for a second, before blushing, looking down.
"I'm staying in Rhode Island now days," he says. "But I got this job in Maine, and I didn't plan on anything at first, but then I got into that fight, so…"
Lawrence isn't sure if he should laugh or cry at that.
"You got on a four-hour bus ride with that wound?" he bursts out.
Adam smiles sheepishly and fingers on the bandage on his arm.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time, you know?"
"No, I don't know," Lawrence says with a nervous laugh. "Aren't there any doctors in Maine?"
He knows it's a stupid question the second he says it. Adam doesn't even answer him, just gives him this undetermined look before he picks up his camera again. If Lawrence wants to pretend that he's been approachable enough for Adam to show up without an excuse, Adam won't take that fantasy away from him.
"See this?" he says, leaning closer to show Lawrence the screen. "This is really just the seat in front of me. But the fucking road was so bumpy, my hands were shaking, so now it looks like some kind of weird-ass melted ice cream. I thought it was kind of cool, though. What do you think?"
Of course Adam's going to do this at Lawrence's rate. That's just who he is.
Even though he's the one who's been waiting for sixteen years for a damn Email.
The camera is another thing that Lawrence knows instinctively is the same one that he had when they were kids. Sure, most systematic cameras probably look more or less the same, but it's just the way Adam works with it. His fingers on the buttons, the way he holds it. Despite the ways his face has changed, as Lawrence keeps looking at his hands while the night goes on, he gets more and more convinced that he hasn't aged a minute since that day at the airport.
Lawrence doesn't get how he can be this way. The same eager and passion about his pictures as he had when he was eighteen. Not when he's actually older than Lawrence, and Lawrence feels like he's a hundred, body and soul.
Lawrence isn't sure how long after they sat down; it's hard to keep tracks of time when all he can think of is Adam being right next to him and the soul-crushing regret that's suddenly welling up in him. But eventually, he grabs Adam's hand, cutting him off mid-sentence, and Adam flinches, looking up at him like he didn't know this was going to happen, but of course he did, he had to.
Lawrence takes a few quivering breaths, looking at Adam firmly, trying to think of what he actually wants to say rather than the panic. He's going to get this right this time. They're so close now, so close.
"Adam," he says. His voice sounds kind of steady. "I… I couldn't keep in touch with you. I was scared. I was so scared of everything that made me feel, because I couldn't feel when I started college, there was no… Room for that, and I…"
He's not sure where to go from there. Adam's looking at him, wide-eyed, disbelieving, just a tiny bit of hope, before his mouth tightens up and he just looks angry.
"You what?" he asks, probably trying to sound composed but not really succeeding.
"I…" Lawrence sighs. All this sounds so stupid when he says it out loud. "I don't know. I don't know how this happened. During the first year, you were the only thing that kept me going, and then I got… I got scared. I…"
He stops in his tracks when he sees that Adam looks like he's been slapped in the face. They're still sitting right next to each other, Lawrence clutching to his hand, how can it feel like they're suddenly miles apart?
"Scared?" Adam repeats sharply. "Of me?"
Lawrence swallows. Whatever he says now is only going to make it worse. Adam glares at him, searching his face for something through narrowed eyes. This time, he definitely doesn't find whatever he's looking for.
"I used to be the one thing that kept you from being scared."
Lawrence wants to put a bullet in his head when he hears the way Adam says it. Like he's lost all hope on them. It must show better than he thought it did, because before he knows it, Adam's torn his hand out of his grip to punch it feebly into his chest, no physical effect, just to show his frustration, and well, no one can say that's not justified.
"For fuck's sake, Lawrence!" Adam growls and keeps hitting him. "You can't start crying every time I try to tell you did a shitty thing! How am I supposed to tell you off then, huh? You can't be held responsible for anything because you're a fucking nervous wreck?"
Lawrence didn't even realize he was crying. He dries his cheek halfheartedly with one hand and tries to grab Adam's arm with the other. Adam fights him off and keeps hitting him, not hard, he'd never intentionally hurt him, but the pain bottled up for all these years are enough.
It's so weird, because hurting Adam is the last thing Lawrence would ever want to do. Why did he do this to him to begin with?
Adam yanks his arm out of his grasp one last time, and eventually sits back down, as abruptly as he started hitting him in the first place. For a second, he doesn't even look at Lawrence, just a few deep breaths, before putting his camera down at the coffee table, with a carefulness that looks parodic next to how violent he was a moment ago. Lawrence wipes away some more tears, feels the panic welling up again, but fuck that, he needs to say this. He's finally figured out a way to put what fucked them up into words, and he can panic later.
"I've never done a thing right in my life, Adam," he says. His voice sounds so weird. "I can't. It's like a roadblock in my head. I married this amazing woman and I couldn't love her because I didn't know… How to. And I got this job that I'd wanted my entire life, and turned it into another thing I could have nightmares about. I don't know why I do it, it just is. But if I messed up things like marriages and jobs, that I can always get more of… Fuck, just imagine how much I'd have to mess up something like you, right?"
Adam doesn't look at him once while he's talking. When it's been quiet for so long that Lawrence is thinking of saying something else, Adam turns to him again. The way he looks at him is like a raw, open wound, and Lawrence is so, so scared that it's going to end here.
"You're a fucking idiot," Adam says through gritted teeth.
And kisses him.
Like the very first time, that night in the alley a hundred years ago, Lawrence is so shocked that he recoils at first. He half-expected Adam to hit him again. He'd deserve that a hell of a lot more than this, but still turns to Adam for more, opening his mouth and putting both hands on his waist, not sure how far he's allowed to go. Adam doesn't seem to have a problem with it, but easily takes the upper hand, pushing Lawrence down on his back and sandwiching his legs between his.
They're not kids anymore, no. They don't have their lives in front of them, and everything, including this, turns into a lot more work than it used to be. Lawrence hasn't been on the bottom in this situation since that first time, which was also a hundred years ago, but with Adam, he's not even going to try.
Despite everything that's changed, right now, their roles are set the exact same way they were back then. Lawrence is terrified, and Adam feels betrayed. He hopes to God it won't stay that way.
At least Adam stays with him afterwards. Lawrence sort of expected him to leave him here, drained and hot and sleepy, since after all, they haven't really solved anything. But Adam lies down, his head on his chest and one arm draped sloppily across his stomach. Lawrence lifts his hand, sort of testing his luck, and starts playing with fondly strands of his hair.
He doesn't care that this couch isn't really designed to sleep in, or that Adam's sweat is more cold and clammy than hot and sexy at this point. He never wants to get up from here. Things are simpler right now than they have been once since he left. And probably simpler than his teens, though, or he wouldn't have put so much energy into repressing them.
Adam only lets it last for a couple of minutes, though. Then he heaves himself up, sighs heavily and turns to look at him.
"It's not this simple, Lawrence," he says gravelly. "You could've had this whenever you wanted. You knew that. You must've known that. But you never came back. I… I waited for you. You had me believing I'd never have to wait for you in my life."
There's that tone again. Lawrence has never felt worse about himself in his life.
"Is that really all you got?" Adam goes on. Not accusing, genuinely wondering. "It was so damn good that you couldn't take it? That's why you couldn't come back?"
Lawrence reaches up and puts his hand on top of Adam's.
"I was on my way of becoming everything I'd tried to be all my life," he says.
"And then there was no place for me?" Adam interrupts venomously.
"There was. Or, I don't know… I didn't get it back then. I was eighteen, damn it. I was stupid. Don't you remember what it was like?"
Adam gives him a look that seems too dark for him.
"Yeah," he says and looks away. "I remember."
Lawrence has to tighten his grip on his hand, because the thought that strikes him is terrifying. Adam's never going to understand what he means, just how much he means to him. He's never going to understand, and that's Lawrence's fault, because he's the one that kept him from being there when it happened.
Adam would know just how much Lawrence needed him if he saw him all those sleepless nights in college when the walls seemed to close around him. Or those times when he was grownup, should've known better, when he was supposed to write a medical report on a surgery that went wrong and had to lock himself in the bathroom and sit there for a while with his hands over his ears to block out all those voices that told him again and again how useless he was.
Those voices always sounded so much like his own.
Lawrence really hopes Adam's going to give him time to tell him all those things. Time never moved this fast back then. Even though everything was easier then, simply because they had each other.
"I've loved you since I was sixteen, Adam," Lawrence says. "I just didn't show it as well as you did. To be honest, I'm not even sure I'll be better at it now."
Adam turns to him. Searching his face again.
"I've done a pretty good job at patching you up in the past, if I do say so myself," he then says, almost carefully. "But I'm a little worried I'm too late for this one."
Lawrence nods slowly.
Adam keeps looking at him. Lawrence is convinced he's going to stand up and leave, but then he feels slim little fingers braiding together with his own. Fits perfectly. Some things don't change.
Lawrence pulls Adam down to him again. He wants to be patient, make this moment last, but it doesn't feel like they have time. He needs to be as close to Adam as he can, they've lost enough time already.
Adam lies back down with his head against Lawrence's chest. He doesn't think of this the way Lawrence does. He doesn't need to make the most of it. With all the time they've already wasted, they can waste a little more. Plus, knowing the way they are, they're probably going to spend half of the time they have left trying to sort out their bullshit, and right now, he's just tired.
He closes his eyes. Lawrence won't go to sleep for hours, because he needs to savor every second of this. And no matter how long it takes until he actually gives up, he's going to be kicking himself tomorrow because he's going to think he fell asleep too soon.
That's the way he is, that's the way he's always been.
Their hands hold on. Adam drifts off to sleep, but tomorrow, he's going to bring Lawrence to that alley with the stolen cigarettes where they can stay forever, that trailer where no one's going to get beat up by their mom.
That promised land they never got when they were kids.